back to Table of Contents

Singing Bowls, a Guide to Healing through Sound

5. Vibrational Healing

Sound will be the medium of the future.
Edgar Cayce


In 1990 while involved in a Reiki group, I had my first encounter with the healing power of the singing bowls. Usually I would bring a few bowls to play for the group after our Reiki work was finished. Gerda, the group leader, asked if the bowls could help relieve her frequent severe headaches. Sometimes they lasted several weeks and she felt as if her head was split in two.
Gerda sat on a chair while I played a bowl with a clear sustaining sound around her head for five minutes. The best one I have, it is one of the first two I bought from Joska Soos. After a deep breath she told me that as I played, energy in her head focused itself in the center of the forehead, or Ajna chakra, and then left her head in a forceful stream. Her headache was gone, but she remained skeptical because in the past it would return quickly. This time was different and a few weeks later a visibly happy Gerda told me that her headache had not returned at all.
An explanation of this is that disharmony, existing on the energetic level in and around her head, was restructured by the sound. The healing potential of the singing bowls was clearly demonstrated; the word healing is used in its broadest sense and indicates a positive change in a person. This change can be physical, psychological or spiritual with all three levels linked together. In another situation, following a group session with the bowls, one of the participants said he still could feel the sounds of the singing bowls one week later. The experience had triggered a profound change in him and he said he felt "so much better". In a certain sense this also constitutes a healing.
The body has its own built in healing system and can repair itself, but the perpetual stress of hectic lifestyles keeps the body out of balance. Sometimes a little help is needed. Soothing sounds and music can be very helpful, bringing the physical, psychological and spiritual bodies back into harmony. Patterns of sound vibrations create movement and resonance in the energy fields and space surrounding the body. A delicate energy system, the body is influenced by its environment. As the singing bowls are played the sounds create energy fields that fill the room, and the body absorbs them. Deep stress is neutralized in cells and organs, enabling them to return to a healthy state.
Different bowls will have different effects on the body. The most fundamental way of differentiating bowls is as male (yang) and female (yin) bowls. A male singing bowl gives a strong, direct, straightforward sound. A female bowl gives a soft, indirect, encompassing sound that envelops and nurtures. A yin, or female, bowl has a rim the same thickness as the rest of the wall of the bowl, whereas a yang, male, bowl has a rim which is much thicker than the walls. It is the rim that produces the fundamental note, giving the bowl its characteristic sound quality.
Because the sound of each bowl affects different people on different levels, a wide variety of reactions and experiences can be expected in group sessions. Most experience a relaxation of the body, mind and emotions that is deeper than they have ever experienced. For a few physical problems have disappeared, as with a woman who had suffered from constant burping for several months. It ceased altogether during the session. Tension she was holding in her stomach had caused the burping. Deep relaxation and inner harmony released it. Relaxation is the first step toward coming back into contact with your own body. Many people hold tension in their body, not knowing how to allow themselves to relax.
For Laura, a sensitive woman, keeping her awareness focused in her body was difficult, often causing great fear. During a private session she trembled the entire hour. Seeking insight we spread Tarot cards; they explained her solar plexus and heart chakras were unbalanced and too open. The heart chakra is responsible for defining personal territorial space. When it is too open there is a tendency to over-identify with other people. The function of the solar plexus chakra is the formation of energetic connections with one's environment, especially with people. Laura had the tendency to lose herself and over identify with what she saw, both in her environment and in other people. Sleep problems were a part of her lack of inner stability, and for months she had been waking up every night at around two o'clock. Following the session she slept through the entire night and woke up the next day totally refreshed.
Physical sensations during singing bowl sessions are common. As blocked energy is finally released it begins to move, with resulting pleasure or pain that may suddenly arise and subside. It can be felt in any part of the body. Psychic impressions and sensations emerge as deep layers in the inner self never before consciously experienced are opened up by the profound relaxation brought by the sounds. Some people see colors with their eyes closed. It can be a solid field, or one color changing into other colors. In a private session a sensitive, intelligent, high functioning autistic child saw the color purple change to blue, then aquamarine and back to purple over and over again. Others have seen light flashes or sustained brilliant lights at the level of the Ajna chakra. Located between the eyebrows, it is associated with entrance into the inner world.
The seven energy centers known as the chakras regulate, balance and transform the flow of life energy. Physical and psychological disturbances will result if any of them are either under active or overactive. When asked how the singing bowls affect the body, Joska Soos said when played with strikers they act directly on the chakras. When played by rubbing them around and around with a stick they act on the aura in its totality. These observations are based on his psychic sensitivity and personal experience, and one could argue this is only one man's experience. However, in years of working with the bowls I have had many people report strong sensations in the areas of the body that correspond to the chakras. Awareness of the fact that the singing bowls have an effect on the chakra energy centers is important in any kind of shamanic or healing work with the bowls. The seven major and many minor chakras are dimensional portals for the assimilation of energy of a higher vibration. Each of the major chakras is connected to a major nerve plexus and glandular center of the endocrine system. The balance of the endocrine system is important to our health, likewise the philosophy of the chakras is that proper functioning of each major chakra is critical to the cellular health and overall balance of each organ system. The chakras regulate the flow of vital energy to the organs, helping to establish strength and balance in the physical systems. Therefore abnormal or weakened chakra function can create a weakness in the corresponding area of the physical body. Emotional, mental and spiritual issues also contribute to the healthy or dysfunctional condition of the chakras, with a tie to behavioral patterns including addictions and other imbalances.
When people come into contact with their inner selves during the sessions, persistent thoughts may arise. Often about unresolved relationships, a way to resolve them is discovered by letting go of preconceptions or blocked emotions. Those who are able to go smoothly into the inner world often see images with symbolic meaning. Usually these images apply to the personís present situation. More advanced, experienced spirit travelers can have spirit journeys through their inner world visiting landscapes, animals, and spirit people. Animal images are the most frequent, these are usually explained as power animals. Over the years I have had a few clients who have come into contact with higher levels of consciousness where things and beings are so abstract it is difficult or impossible to bring the experience into words. Nevertheless these experiences are real and are always uplifting, love and light pour freely on those spiritual levels.
It is extremely rare to encounter a person who does not like the sounds of the singing bowls. Skeptical people lose their initial resistance immediately when they hear the musical, soothing sounds of the bowls. There are those who do not like the sustained high pitched sound of a bowl when it is rubbed. This may indicate blockages to the higher spiritual truths in life. It is up to the person to accept the sound and release the blockage. In a group session I walked around the group ringing a pair of Tibetan cymbals, which have a very intense high pitched sound. When I arrived at a certain woman, she suddenly burst out in tears. The intensity of the sound broke through blocked emotions she was holding about a relationship. As she allowed herself to accept the sound and let it go through her, her emotions were allowed to flow freely. It took several minutes of crying to release all the tension.
Autistic people are often very sensitive to sounds. A high functioning, intelligent autistic woman in her fifties became anxious with her first exposure to the sounds of the bowls, but convinced herself not to be afraid. It is characteristic of autistic people to have problems feeling their body or bodily sensations. She relaxed and had the feeling of being one with the world. The sounds allowed her to forget her body and connect with the world in a conscious state of mind. At the same time she was more able to connect with her body and physically felt better after the treatment.
When introducing the bowls to people direct experience is far more effective than any explanation about the bowls can ever be. While giving free sound massages with the singing bowls in a local shop I encountered a young man who was there with his wife. I mentioned my work with Tibetan singing bowls and asked if he had ever heard of them. He was not interested at all and turned to leave, but as soon as I hit the bowls, the magical sounds instantly brought a change of heart and a "wow" escaped his lips, followed by "Honey, have a look at this!". This reaction is typical. The sound captures attention on the spot. People are entranced. Perhaps a vague memory of a lost inner harmony overrides their busy daily consciousness. The bowls do indeed take one out of ordinary reality.
Aside from the initial wonder when hearing the sounds, the first noticeable reaction when the bowls are played around and on the body is profound relaxation. Deeper than just relaxing on a couch, it is quick and not limited to the physical body. The mind relaxes and one enters into an inner space that feels so good it takes several minutes to get up after the last bowl has sounded. People are always surprised how deeply they have been affected by a singing bowl treatment. They feel clearer and happier and this feeling often remains for several hours or even for days. "I still can feel it vibrate in me!" one woman told me on the telephone several days after a personal session. The effects of the singing bowls might be quite sensational, but let us not forget that they are also linked to silence. Strike a bowl once and listen to the sound ebbing away into silence. When it is not physically audible anymore, hear it in your mind. This leads you to your inner silence, your inner true self, it is here the mystery of life unfolds.

copyright 2001 by Dirk Gillabel